Benefits of co-learning

Open book with apple, pen, and spiral binders

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In September 2011 I wrote about a course that effectively used the “teacher as co-learner” dynamic.  Therese Huston has written a book on the subject.  Teaching What You Don’t Know covers both teaching unfamiliar content and working with students unlike ourselves. It has made me think of my own information literacy work.

As a librarian I regularly work with students researching subjects where I myself have no background.  This is both one of the most challenging and one of the most fascinating parts of my job.  I get to model the very lifelong learning I talk about.

Still, certain things can become routine.  Huston (2009) suggests finding the unfamiliar in stale or boring material.  She gives the example of having to teach personality theory, an area that didn’t interest her.   Since she liked ice cream, she found a “flavorology study” from Edy’s Ice Cream (pp. 108-109) as a fun discussion point.  In my teaching I can seek a fresh take on scholarly journals, a topic I have covered far too often.  If the material interests me, it will likelier interest the students.

Teaching outside of our comfort zones is more common than we may realize, and Huston (2009) invites us readers to talk about it.  By doing so we can actually benefit from co-learning.


Huston, T. (2009). Teaching what you don’t know. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.